Category Archives: sleepless in Vancouver

Quick Update

Downtown Portland

View from the office window

Busy week. Parts of it extremely not fun.

Insomnia! I haven’t had sleeping issues since Clarion West last summer. Last night was night 4. woo!

Office is finally decorated. Photos to come.

Mom and Dad in town this weekend. Won’t be computing much.

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There’s A Party in My Paella

I’ve never made paella before so my strategy was to read as many recipes as I could find and then distill them into the easiest possible procedure. I ended up printing out 4 recipes that looked promising.

I worked on my story all day Sunday and the last thing I wanted to do at the end of the day was cook something more complicated than frozen pizza but I had all the ingredients and I was hungry so I went for it. None of the recipes was easy and they all seemed to demand that I get a lot of pans dirty and do a lot of processes and I was having none of that. Try to spot my short cuts.

I warmed up my new pan and, in this order, I threw in: chopped onion and red bell pepper, cubed chicken breasts, chopped spicy Italian sausage (no chorizo and I didn’t want to go to another store) and then a half bag of Trader Joe’s frozen mixed seafood surprise which what they get at the end of a fishing expedition when they clean out the bottom of the boat.

I realized I should have saved the vegetables for later but never fear. When done, I scraped all this stuff into a bowl and set aside in the warm oven and then made the sofrito which is onions, garlic, tomatoes and in my case, the last 3 spoonfuls of salsa in the container because it needed to be finished up. Once that smelled delicious I added my rice and mixed everything together and then added my saffron infused Swanson’s chicken broth. I had bought smoked Spanish paprika specifically because I thought I needed it for paella and none of my recipes called for it so I added 1 teaspoon.

I waited until the cooked rice started pushing up in the middle of the pan and then spread the meat mixture plus some peas and shelled edamame because why not? over the pan. Then I moved the pan around on the burners to make sure it was getting thoroughly heated and after a half hour I turned the heat down and covered with foil and let it sit for a bit.

Keep in mind that I had been writing since I woke up so in addition to cooking I was running back and forth folding laundry and scrubbing the bathroom sink and generally enjoying the life of a woman who has it all (except for children, pets and a ski chalet in the Austrian alps).

The end result: delicious! My recipe needs work including being less timid with the saffron and paprika and I think I have some hot paprika somewhere and if I can find it, I’ll throw some of that in next time, too.

Meanwhile, I was so tired on Sunday night I read 2 pages of my book and then turned out the light and then tossed and turned ALL NIGHT LONG. It was clinically awful. I thought it was because Bob wasn’t home but three people in my office reported terrible sleep the same night so now I think the aliens are wearing us down before they start their invasion.

Last night I saw Marjane Satrapi at Arts and Lectures and she was fabulous. I very highly recommend Persepolis 1 and 2. But that means that I left the house at 6:30a and didn’t get home until 9:30p which is close to the world’s longest day.

Now it’s Tuesday and I’m feeling tired and frazzled but apparently still capable of writing a long rambling blogpost. Is this a marketable skill?

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Nothing Bad to Say

Sunrise in Vancouver
I woke up at about 1:30a this morning and never really got back to sleep. I’m so wonky that I actually described the above photo as “Sunset this morning.”

By the skin of my teeth I managed to leave the office at 12:30p as planned. It never fails that if I try to take a half day, something monumental has to be done 20 minutes before I want to leave. Today was no different but my determination was unstoppable and I got my thing done, made my bus and was back at my car by 1pm.

I’m only writing this to tell you about how perfectly fabulous Toyota of Vancouver was this afternoon. I have said and thought bad things about them after some visits in the past but they were A+ with extra credit today.

When I walked in, I told them that a dummy light went on shortly after I left last week and could they take a look. One guy grabbed my keys and ran out the door while another guy made a joke about me calling them dummies. I mentioned that I’d like to get new windshield wipers because I totally forgot last week and he said it would be cheaper if I bought it from parts.

“I don’t know how to install them,” I said. And he said, “One of these guys will install them.”

He then took me to parts by walking me through the service area with all the guys working on cars. Then in parts, he stood there and b.s.’d with me while we waited for them to find my part. Once they found it, he took them back to my car while I paid, so they could get them put in.

He instructed me to go back in the way I came and I asked, “Is that cool? Doesn’t your insurance company frown about customers wandering around out there?” And he says, “Yeah, probably. I bet [redacted] wouldn’t like it.” I had no idea who [redacted] was but said I would run if I saw him.

Then I paid less than $11 for my part and trotted back out to the service area and the first guy from when I came in saw me and laughed and said, “You’re everywhere!” And I laughed and he said to be careful walking through the service area and I said, “You mean, don’t break my neck right here?” Then he showed me this really cool old car they’re fixing up to put in the showroom.

When I get back to my car there are FOUR (4!) guys working on it, one each installing a wiper, one figuring out the malfunctioning rear light and one watching him, plus my friend from parts cracking the whip as they worked assuring me they would get it done as soon as they could. I think about 15 minutes had passed so far. I was at least an hour away from being concerned about how long it was taking.

They didn’t charge me for the rear light and I was on my way by 2pm. I have nothing unkind to say about Toyota right now.

Note to Uncouth Heathen: I have many fabulous ideas for you and will make it into a whole post. Stay tuned.

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Attack of the Monster Cereal

I didn’t mention it earlier but I made rice crispy treats on Saturday morning. I had leftover crispy cereal (not Rice Krispies, I bought the generic version) from the white bark balls I made last month. Crispy rice cereal only comes in luggage-size boxes. The box was so big I couldn’t fit it in any of my kitchen cupboards and had to put on top of the filing cabinet in the laundry room.

I haven’t made them in eons and now I remember why. The bag of marshmallows instructions used the microwave but I wanted to do it on the stovetop and after a half hour the effing marshmallows still weren’t melted so I had to transfer to the microwave.

Once melted, I scraped the world’s stickiest substance into a giant bowl with the cereal and tried to mix it together. I wasn’t getting far with my spoon and since I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty so I plunged them in which didn’t seem to accomplish anything except to spread the world’s stickiest substance all over my hands. Then the cereal stuck to my hands and would not come off and the more I tried to scrape it off, the more that stuck to me until I had these giant marshmallow-cereal gloves on my hands. I knew that on some level this was funny and we should probably get photos except I was not humored in the least and sort-of panicked (ah! I’m going to die stuck in a giant web of marshmallow and cereal) and super irritated because my quick little project to get rid of my barrel of cereal was resulting in a mess and frustration.

Some warm sudsy water and my hands were clean. I buttered some aluminum foil and mashed the mixture into the buttered pan and let them cool and everybody loved them. I brought the leftovers for the lunchroom.

Meanwhile, I haven’t slept through the night for 6 straight nights and just out of curiosity I checked and last March I had doodoo sleep as well so I guess it really is a seasonal thing, not that I’m any less sleepy for the realization.

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Bicycle Races Are Coming Your Way

Last week on Wednesday night, when we were on our trip, there was an Indian taco feed. We gave our orders to BG and she and a crew picked them up and everyone came over to Mom and Dad’s house and we crammed on the porch for dinner. Originally I thought someone was having a fund raiser but turns out it was two women who didn’t have a job and wanted to make some money. Good for us. No one had to cook.

It was a fun dinner and I took some lovely photos which are still sitting in the viewer, waiting to be lovingly tweaked, cropped and uploaded. Soon.

The next night was the surprise baby shower for Meredith. Remember the wedding in Reno in May? I didn’t find out about the shower until I was already in Orleans which is not know for its shopping options. The nearest major store is at least a 1 1/2 hour drive away.

I quickly knit the baby an adorable outfit which drew oohs and awws from the crowd. Not really. I don’t know how to knit and would like to learn but I barely have time for the things I want to do now. I actually subscribed to a sewing magazine because I thought I was going to get into that. I’ve read each issue cover to cover and really look forward to sewing someday. But I’m getting off my story.

Luckily, I had brought a teeny little something which wasn’t really supposed to be the baby gift. It was something we had that I wanted to give to them. Mom and I wrapped it in tissue and Mom found a card in a drawer somewhere so at least we didn’t have to arrive empty handed.

Meanwhile, while we’re at the shower, we find out that the kids have been invited to play music for some bikers. Sophie was practicing piano down at the school or church or community center. I’m not sure. Maybe all of those. It’s a small town and this is one of the main meeting spots for events. Someone from the biker group heard her play and thought it would be nice entertainment for the group.

Earlier in the day when we went swimming we saw all these people on bikes on the road. They are part of a bicycle club and their itinerary is here.

After the baby shower and sausage feed that Bob and Flori and maybe also Uncle Barry, I wasn’t paying attention, made for us, we all jumped in a half dozen cars and caravaned into town to watch the kids play.

It was amazing. The club had brought in all this infrastructure like a portable shower truck and potty truck and there were tents all over the place. It looked like a fun thing to do. Well, if you like riding bicycles and I do not.

Inside the room was packed and quiet while the kids played. They have a string ensemble and their Mom plays the flute — it’s very von Trapp family. I asked if I could sew them some outfits from curtains. They sounded fantastic. I stood in the back and a man leaned over and said to my Aunt, “Aren’t those kids beautiful?” and my Aunt said, “Those are my grandchildren.” We were all so proud.

Meanwhile, I’m going on night three of I N S O M N I A. My sweetheart has been in Seattle for a work related training and I have one more night before I get him back. Hard to believe I have trouble sleeping without the snoring lump of mammal.

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The Awfulizer

Last night I woke up at around 1:30am with what Bob would call “a flippy stomach.” I got up and drank some bubble water and read for a half hour and everything settled down and I turned the light out.

And then tossed and turned with a few segments of troubled napping for the rest of the night.

My middle of the night brain and my regular brain are completely different beasts. I lay there awfulizing about the most random things that don’t even make sense. Like what if we both get sick and both lose our jobs and go through all our savings and have to grow our own food in the backyard and wolves roam the neighborhood and the vampires win and … .

I even realize that my middle of the night brain is just trying to freak me out while it’s doing it but still, I get all agitated and my heart races and I can’t sleep. Then I heard random sounds that worried me. One was like a gnat shivering. I kept thinking I should get up and investigate. Or another sound was like someone was going through our bills and papers in the kitchen. Because that really could happen in the middle of the night.

About 2:45a I heard my neighbor’s car start and I had to wonder what he was doing at the hour. Was he going to work? What kind of job starts in the middle of the night? Is he a security guard? Convenience mart? Maybe he just had insomnia and needed a drive. Good thing he has me worrying about it for him.

Then as I drifted in and out I had bizarre dreams like people were reaching in the bedroom windows and stealing my things and this dog that was running around the neighborhood that we had to catch and then random stuff about this person that’s famous for no clear reason who just got out of jail. It was a long night.

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How To Clean Your Baking Stone

First I took it outside to chip off all the baked on bread crust. I had to get pretty rough. I took it outside so I wouldn’t spend the rest of the day vacuuming bread crumbs from every crevice in the kitchen.

Once the major chunkage was off, I put the baking stone in the sink. I found a clean kitchen towel and got it wet and draped it over the baking stone and let it sit. Periodically I’d check on it and find that the now softened bread bits were ready to scrape off.

When all the crust was gone I sprinkled the whole stone with baking soda and a drizzle of water and gave it a good scrub. Thorough rinse and voila: nice clean baking stone ready for the next baking disaster.

In other news, I know this is a tiresome subject (ha ha) but I woke up at 1:30a this morning. 1:30! I’ve been up since 1:30! Have you noticed the worst nights are always the nights before work? Nothing like starting the work week tired and cranky.

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The Darkness of Night

I know I said I wasn’t going to talk about this anymore and I had such a great night on Tuesday night. Something like 7 solid hours of zzzs. Then I got cocky. This morning I woke up at 3:30am. Just me and the dark.

While I had all that quiet thinking time, I tried to come up with a good Valentine’s story for you. I don’t have any super great or super bad tales to tell. Last year’s story about dinner with my high school boyfriend is the best of the bunch.

I sort of remember a Valentine’s that was probably 1989 or 90 when I went to see Faster Pussycat at the Roxy by myself. I could be making up the date and I spent about 3 minutes yesterday researching it and had no luck and didn’t want to dig any deeper.

The club was packed and it was an awesome show (whatever day it was) except this bitchiass photographer who came along and put a steel box camera case or whatever on the floor right in front of me and stood on it. And not for a minute to take a few pictures but she wanted to park there. Unfortunately, it was a rambunctious crowd and my elbows and the elbows of other unhappy fans flew about until missy photographer moved on.

Bob and I don’t like to do anything special for Valentine’s. It’s a stupid “holiday” invented for profit and disappointment. I usually bake him something fun and seeing as how Valentine’s landed on Wednesday and there was no optimal baking time, I’m going to make something fun this weekend. I found these wacky raspberry flavored chocolate chips at the market which is one of his dream flavor combos so something with that.

This the best I can do on 5 hours of sleep.

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Sleepless in Vancouver (WA)

My Loaves
This is ridiculous. I crawled in bed at 8:50pm and fell right to sleep. Then I woke up at 12:30a. I was so thirsty I drank two tankards of water. Then I tossed and turned for a couple hours. I can see why people turn to drugs for this problem.

My finished loaves were about a C+. They tasted okay, hot from the oven, but the crumb was nothing to write home about and the crust was hard and not pretty.

I will endeavor to write about something other than insomnia and bread baking tomorrow.

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The Science of Sleep

Three Loaves
Whenever I can’t sleep, I always think it’s something I’m doing wrong. Those cookies I ate. That glass of wine I drank. Those vitamins I took. I think sometimes the body just doesn’t want to sleep. There’s nothing to blame this latest bout of sleeplessness on. Except possibly thinking too much but I don’t want to get into that now.

My sourdough came to life somewhat yesterday although I don’t think it was as active as the professional baker would like. But after babysitting that bowl for three days, there was no way I was going to put it back in the fridge until next weekend.

I did the math on all the fermentation and rest periods and figured out the latest I could start the bread and still get into bed at a decent hour. Of course I calculated wrong and needed an additional one-hour-fermentation periods and since I didn’t want to stay up until 11pm, I cut all the wait periods short. I was still shaping loaves after 9pm.

This recipe calls for 12-24 hours in the fridge and then straight into the oven. Initially I thought I’d bake them this morning but since I didn’t get them into the fridge until so late and I leave the house for work at a dark and ungodly hour, I decided to wait until tonight.

In sum: I’ve been working on this since Friday morning, cut corners pretty much every step of the way and still have no freshly baked sourdough bread for my efforts.

This morning I found concrete bits of dried dough in various places around the house. Also, new knife update: I managed to slice a finger on my left hand. 8 fingers left.

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